One hundred fifty Hickman right atrial catheters were inserted into 143 patients and were followed prospectively until removal. Primary indications for their use were: cancer chemotherapy (45), parenteral nutrition (35), antibiotic therapy (63), and miscellaneous (7). The overall catheter-associated infection rate was 12.0%. Since the mean duration of catheterization was 125 days, the infection/duration rate was 1.0/1,000 days of use. The risk of infection differed significantly according to the primary indication for catheterization: parenteral nutrition > antibiotic therapy > cancer chemotherapy. The increased risk of catheter-associated infection attributable to duration of catheterization was additive, and the per day risk of such infections remained constant regardless of duration. Nearly two-thirds of patients were discharged home with catheters in place, without adversely affecting infection risk.